How many times have you heard the verse, “Love your neighbour as you love yourself”?
My first thought when hearing this is: “of course I love myself a lot more than others and therefore, I should love others just as much.”
It struck me the other day that I can only love others as much as I love myself. Now that I say it, it sounds so obvious. If there is something I struggle to love about myself—like my weight or lack of self-confidence—then these are the things I also struggle to love in others. If someone has more confidence than I have, jealousy creeps in and I struggle to love their confidence.
My own insecurities hinder my ability to love others fully.
We all have issues and although for a long time I was sure that one can reach a point where you have worked through all your issues, I recently learnt that new environments and pressures bring new or unresolved issues forward. Basically, you will always have something to work on. Sad but true.
What I find challenging about this is not the idea that I will never be issue free but that my love for others will always be capped by my internal struggles. The possibility of always struggling to love others because I am dealing with stuff is a miserable, uncomfortable feeling. I’m fine with struggling through my own stuff but I’m uncomfortable that that limits my love for others.
My motto of hiding the challenges I’m facing—to fake it till I make it—has just become a motto that I don’t feel comfortable striving for anymore. I want to give as much love as possible to others no matter how little I love myself. I don’t want others to be impacted by my lack of self-love.
This realisation has intensified the pressure to reflect, dig deeper, discover, unwrap, identify and solve whatever it is I don’t love about myself. Ah, but now that means that that thing I have always disliked about myself and pushed to the back of my mind, must be confronted.
To fully love others, to fully love every weird bit about them, I need to embrace my quirks and weaknesses.
This feeling that I must figure out all of me is overwhelming. Is it really possible to love myself completely so that in turn I can wholeheartedly love others?
Let’s read the verse again.
“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” — Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)
It all starts with God, my relationship with Him. The strength of the love in my relationship with Him, will reflect in how I express love towards others. Because He loves me, just as I am, and I love myself because I am wonderfully and fearfully made by Him, I can therefore love others without any hesitation or limitation.
The more I work on finding myself through Him and understanding why He wired me as He did, the easier it will be to accept myself for who I am. Indirectly, as I grow in and through Him and as I see myself through His eyes, the idea of loving others becomes a much simpler task.